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Webchat with James Cracknell and Beverley Turner about life after brain injury (and more), TODAY, Monday 12 November, 1-2pm

(98 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 08-Nov-12 12:06:46

We're joined on Monday at 1pm by Olympic rower James Cracknell and his wife, writer and broadcaster Beverley Turner who have just published their book, Touching Distance.

In 2010 James was knocked off his bike by the wing mirror of a petrol tanker in Arizona. It had smashed into the back of his head at high speed, causing severe frontal lobe damage. The doctors weren't sure if he would recover and, if he did, whether he would ever be the same again. A year later, he suffered a seizure at home which left him struggling to master life's simple challenges whilst his family faced the challenges this brought to their own lives.

Touching Distance is an extraordinary, honest and powerful account. James and Bev confront for the first time the lasting effects that the accident has had on their lives. Send your questions to James or Bev in advance or join them on Monday at 1pm for the webchat. Send in a question and you will be entered into a draw to win one of four signed copies of Touching Distance.

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 13:51:36

GW297

My question is: Are your children showing any signs of having inherited their father's risk taking gene and how would you feel if they were to follow in his footsteps when they were older?

Very provocative question and one that I often get asked. I honestly don't think I have a risk taking gene, the events that I've done have been 'endurance' rather than 'adrenalin' based. Where mistakes are down to making poor decisions in the environment you're in so anything that goes wrong is predominantly down to you e.g. Antarctica is basically an isolated desert. Whereas I was hit on a public highway and the one thing we can't do is control other people's actions. As for my kids showing signs of enjoying endurance sports, our little lad is good at swimming but as his grandma is a swimming coach, his uncle competed in the pool at the Athens Olympics and his mum is slightly competitive he was out to his swimming club at 6am on Saturday. 'Luckily' I can't drive at the moment following a seizure so I had to stay in bed rather than take him!

joanbyers Mon 12-Nov-12 13:53:27

To James,

I know you are a big advocate of cycle helmets. It's easy to see, given your experience, why you do this. I wonder however if the particular focus on helmets is a distraction from cycle safety.

Fatal accident statistics show that while adult cycle accidents and fatalities are in the great majority of the cases the fault of the motorist involved, when it comes to children this is reversed, and the accident is most often caused by an error on the part of the cycling.

It's not hard to spot children cycling on and off pavements, on the wrong side of the road, and other dangerous behaviours, and I just wonder if the simplistic 'kids: wear a helmet' message is getting in the way of safe cycling - people seem to think that they just issue their 10-year-old with a helmet, and that's it, he's safe to go on the road, and the helmet will somehow stop him being hit by three-tonne motor vehicles.

Do you agree with me that the singular focus on cycle helmets, whether accident victims were wearing one (mentioned for example by Bradley Wiggins when a new cycle commuter (who was in fact a helmet advocate himself, and wearing one at the time) was killed by an Olympics bus in July), and so on, is in fact counter-productive to the wider cause of cycle safety/accident reduction, given the tendency to reduce cycle safety to 'you must wear a helmet' e.g., to take part in cycle-to-school events?

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 13:54:07

JamesCracknell

babybarrister

Can I just ask a direct question to you both, as well after my thoughts above - what have you both said to your 6 year old son to explain Daddy's brain injury and the angry outbursts as it is something that in the same position as yourselves I find very difficult to think of a good explanation for. Thanks

Really hard and emotional question to answer and I'll be honest was tempted to avoid it. Bev has been forced into dealing with the fallout to our lad especially in the first few months as I wasn't aware of my behaviour. He knew what had happened but as I looked okay and healthy he couldn't understand why I'd react differently to certain situations/behaviour than I had in the past. It was the lack of predictability and the speed with which my mood changed that effected him most and looking back hurts me the most. The reality is the impact on Bev, the kids and my parents, sister has been worse than me. I'm the one that gets sympathy but they have had to learn to live with someone who's different from before.

I think it's important to be as honest as possible. Kids have to know it is a physical problem and neither the fault of the injured person or - especially - the child themselves. Use language they will understand, "Daddy's brain is still healing and so it can make him tired and angry. It's ok to feel angry sometimes - everyone does - but daddy may not be able to stop himself shouting. He would hate to hurt your feelings. He loves you. etc etc..." Frank and true. And if you have a good day, make sure the child recognizes that. Ask his mum / aunt / whoever to say, "I think daddy had a very calm day today. Did you notice too?" And try to tease out the good things they see. I think the hardest thing can be that the child feels like they are the ONLY one whose daddy is like that...I will casually bring up in conversation a story I heard of a little boy who's daddy had a bang on the head...and let your child just open up...I have found that other male adults have played a vital role in keeping things normal and doing those boy-things together. Good luck.

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 13:58:15

BupcakesAndCunting

Custard creams are the best biscuit in the world! (Sorry Beverley!)

I know I've had one question already so do feel free to not answer but James, what are the chances that you will ever regain your sense of taste? I temporarily lost my sense of smell ergo taste and it before then it was something I had taken for granted.

Thanks for the support on custard creams, just don't get me started on vanilla ice cream! It needs support otherwise it'll lose out to all these fancy flavours and be lost to the world, my mum still mourns for the Vienetta! As for my sense of taste I don't know whether it will return, I've also lost my sense of smell which Bev says comes in very handy as "I can get away with murder now!" Problem for me is that as I can't smell I don't know when food in the fridge is off so I've had more food poisoning episodes since the accident. I've blamed Bev for deliberately leaving off food in the fridge to get me!

WorkInProgress Mon 12-Nov-12 13:59:24

Hi
First of all I would like to say that this is not a criticism but a genuine question as it is clear from above that people find your writing useful and I do admire what you have acheived. I used to really like some of the articles Bev wrote, but now it seems every time something happens an article is written and now you have a book, could you be accused of cashing in and living your lives in public. Don't you crave some privacy ?

HellothisisJoanie Mon 12-Nov-12 14:00:22

James - any plans to do the DW this year and get further than Mr Redgrave?

BupcakesAndCunting Mon 12-Nov-12 14:01:13

I remember seeing your interview on This Morning and the food poisoning/bumping-off theory grin

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 14:02:18

TotallyEggFlipped

Hello James & Beverley. I can't make the web chat on Monday, but I'd really like to ask James what keeps him going during his extreme challenges when he reaches the point where he feels as if he's had enough and can't go on?
Thank you.

I'm not sure I'd have answered this in the same way 5 years ago but what I've learned is that you'll get more out of yourself and the experience if you stay positive rather than let the uncomfortable moment getting you down. The reality is that you've chosen to be there and people close to you have sacrificed time, annual holiday or money for you to pursue a dream/trip/event and as Bev says "you'd better bloody enjoy it!" Let's face it running through the Sahara isn't something you're going to do again so enjoy it while you're there!

Phoebe47 Mon 12-Nov-12 14:03:05

Just want to say "Good Luck" to you both, James and Beverley and to your three children. Sat up late last night reading you r book. Inspirational. You deserve much happiness to come.

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 14:03:51

joanbyers

To James,

I know you are a big advocate of cycle helmets. It's easy to see, given your experience, why you do this. I wonder however if the particular focus on helmets is a distraction from cycle safety.

Fatal accident statistics show that while adult cycle accidents and fatalities are in the great majority of the cases the fault of the motorist involved, when it comes to children this is reversed, and the accident is most often caused by an error on the part of the cycling.

It's not hard to spot children cycling on and off pavements, on the wrong side of the road, and other dangerous behaviours, and I just wonder if the simplistic 'kids: wear a helmet' message is getting in the way of safe cycling - people seem to think that they just issue their 10-year-old with a helmet, and that's it, he's safe to go on the road, and the helmet will somehow stop him being hit by three-tonne motor vehicles.

Do you agree with me that the singular focus on cycle helmets, whether accident victims were wearing one (mentioned for example by Bradley Wiggins when a new cycle commuter (who was in fact a helmet advocate himself, and wearing one at the time) was killed by an Olympics bus in July), and so on, is in fact counter-productive to the wider cause of cycle safety/accident reduction, given the tendency to reduce cycle safety to 'you must wear a helmet' e.g., to take part in cycle-to-school events?

We spent this Saturday at a charity event for the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, watching videos of children (and their families) whose lives have been utterly destroyed by NOT wearing a cycle hemlet. 90% of children's bike accidents DO NOT involve cars - they are the simple innocuous trip over a kerb or a wobble over a grid. How anyone can even consider letting their child go on a bike without a helmet is shocking - the ultimate in stupid, bad-parenting. I don't believe that emphasising helmet use somehow over-shadows all other discussions about cycle safety. Adult cyclists have to ride safely and considerately. Parents have to teach children about cycling safety and traffic awareness. I believe we are in a critical transitional period - more cyclists on the roads but we aren't keeping up with educating BOTH cyclists and drivers. It can feel like it is Cars versus cyclists on the road. As a driver, I should be happy to see more cyclists as fewer cars means fewer traffic jams! But I get furious when I see cyclists - no helmets; wearing an ipod; no lights; bag over handle-bars dodging a red light. I frequently wind down my window and politely let them know my thoughts! It's so selfish - if they get a brain injury, they will know little about it, but their families certainly will. We need to start with kids - make helmets as normal to them as seat belts in cars...so that when they are older, we won't have to have this conversation.

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 14:06:23

aristocat

Hello Beverley and James,
Can I first say what an inspiration you are to all of us. Your strength and determination is astounding.

What will your next challenge be? And which of your experiences has been your favourite, was it the Marathon des Sables or the hoard of gold medals smile

Thank you.

Olympic gold is hard to top because you spend years preparing for one race every four years and it's those six minutes that will determine whether those years will have been a waste of time. As for the other challenges I'v been lucky enough to do the Marathon des Sables stands out, not because I performed well but I made the right decisions at the right time in the pressure of a competitive event.

TheWombat Mon 12-Nov-12 14:07:57

Hello James and Beverley

I just wanted to say a big thank you to you, really. My husband and I have just read your book with a little shiver of recognition. My husband had a frontal lobe brain injury on ops in Iraq 10 years ago. He has all the symptoms James describes - memory loss, irritability, awful headaches...in fact, he had a seizure last night. sad. He has found it hard to move from fighter pilot mode to needing naps in the day, etc.

One of the things my husband is still coming to terms with and learning to recognise is his mood swings and ability to contain his frustrations. Reading your book was so helpful because it helped him recognise that there is a reason for these and that other TBI sufferers (for want of a better word) experience this too. Thank you so much for your honesty.

I'd like to ask if writing the book has been at all cathartic.

Piffpaffpoff Mon 12-Nov-12 14:08:40

Totally, 100% agree with you on the cycling helmets. It's been drilled into my two since they started on their balance bikes that no helmet = no bike. It's just part of going out on a bike to them now (but can get slightly embarrassing as they point out, at top volume, every single person they see not wearing a helmetgrin).

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 14:09:07

lovelyrara

Hello Beverley & James. My daughter tells me that I must read your book as it is captivating. Do you have any thoughts on writing a novel now that you have made a start at being an author?
Also if yout name was used in naming a flower or vegetable, what would you like to be associated with? My daughter says this is a silly question but I wouldn't mind having a sweet pea named after me.
I won't be around for the web chat on Monday but I expect you will be relieved about that. Perhaps you may chat to my daughter Katherine and she can confirm that her mother is batty.

lovelyrara

Hello Beverley & James. My daughter tells me that I must read your book as it is captivating. Do you have any thoughts on writing a novel now that you have made a start at being an author?
Also if yout name was used in naming a flower or vegetable, what would you like to be associated with? My daughter says this is a silly question but I wouldn't mind having a sweet pea named after me.
I won't be around for the web chat on Monday but I expect you will be relieved about that. Perhaps you may chat to my daughter Katherine and she can confirm that her mother is batty.

Thanks to you - and your daughter! I've actually got a finished novel in my bottom drawer that I'd been talking to a couple of publishers about before the accident. Getting that out is my no. 1 plan for 2013. (I also wrote a book in 2003 called 'The Pits: the real world of Formula One' all about my time as an ITV presenter in that world. It's a bit dull though - like F1 itself! smile Hhhmmm...what vegetable of flower would I be?...I think I'd rather like a strain ob Broccoli named after me as it has come to my rescue so many times when I'm stressing about my kids getting their five-a-day..Ideally, it would be the type of broccolli that never goes off in the back of the fridge and can cook itself with a nice cheese sauce...

CurlyRooth Mon 12-Nov-12 14:12:08

I know this is totally unrelated, and gorgeously superficial - but I just had to say 'hi' to the parents of another 'Trixie'. We have a 7 year old daughter called Trixie - and I loved it when I found out there was another one out there. Just to say - GOOD CHOICE!

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 14:14:23

TheWombat

Hello James and Beverley

I just wanted to say a big thank you to you, really. My husband and I have just read your book with a little shiver of recognition. My husband had a frontal lobe brain injury on ops in Iraq 10 years ago. He has all the symptoms James describes - memory loss, irritability, awful headaches...in fact, he had a seizure last night. sad. He has found it hard to move from fighter pilot mode to needing naps in the day, etc.

One of the things my husband is still coming to terms with and learning to recognise is his mood swings and ability to contain his frustrations. Reading your book was so helpful because it helped him recognise that there is a reason for these and that other TBI sufferers (for want of a better word) experience this too. Thank you so much for your honesty.

I'd like to ask if writing the book has been at all cathartic.

So sorry to hear that...what a tough time you must have had / still be having...Just a thought - in terms of therapies (and you may have tried them all) it may be worth finding a good CBT therapist or even EFT which is a little 'alternative' but incredibly effective (especially if there is some PTS involved too). I've come to think that TBI sufferers need to get to know themselves all over again and family members just can't do much to help that process. You may get CBT on the NHS...I'm so glad the book helped your hubby with his insight...writing it was immensely cathartic - great for me and James as he finally got to understand a bit about how life is for me! ;) Good luck xxx

babybarrister Mon 12-Nov-12 14:14:51

Thanks so much and good luck with the recovery ....

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 14:15:09

WorkInProgress

Hi
First of all I would like to say that this is not a criticism but a genuine question as it is clear from above that people find your writing useful and I do admire what you have acheived. I used to really like some of the articles Bev wrote, but now it seems every time something happens an article is written and now you have a book, could you be accused of cashing in and living your lives in public. Don't you crave some privacy ?

A totally fair question. In the past I've always said no when the subject/offer of an autobiography has been raised but this time I felt there was an important reason to write it. What I've been through and Bev has endured is fortunately rare but because of that you don't get to meet many people who've experienced the same problems and when I have I've taken great strength from the way they've coped. What I'm left with is an exaggeration of what people suffer in life - struggling with maintaining relationships with my wife and little ones, motivation, work. If by writing the book it helps people look at their life or approach any difficulties they're having in a more positive way then it will have been worth it. Ever since the accident I've been faced with people imposing ceilings on where they think I'll get back to, I don't want to live in a society where we make assumptions on what people can/can't do. As for cashing in we both wanted to write about what we've both been through in our own words and we chose a book rather than to sell to a glossy magazine where that wouldn't be possible.

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 14:15:41

CurlyRooth

I know this is totally unrelated, and gorgeously superficial - but I just had to say 'hi' to the parents of another 'Trixie'. We have a 7 year old daughter called Trixie - and I loved it when I found out there was another one out there. Just to say - GOOD CHOICE!

Ha - thanks! I read that 'Call The Midwife' book about three years ago and the spirited midwife Trixie, in that inspired me. I do like it - but she certainly is Tricksy!! x

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 14:17:41

BupcakesAndCunting

I remember seeing your interview on This Morning and the food poisoning/bumping-off theory grin

And also that James insinuated (I only realized after the interview) that I fart all over the house with complete freedom because he can't smell anything! Obviously...that is completely true...but I didn't expect him to say it on live tv!!!

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 14:19:53

CurlyRooth

I know this is totally unrelated, and gorgeously superficial - but I just had to say 'hi' to the parents of another 'Trixie'. We have a 7 year old daughter called Trixie - and I loved it when I found out there was another one out there. Just to say - GOOD CHOICE!

I'd like to claim credit for the name but it was Bev's choice. We thought we were having a boy, well Bev thought we were having a boy (despite not having found out on the 20wk scan) so came up with a list of boys names. Then a little girl 'popped' out and Bev said "I think we should call her Trixie, you've got five minutes to think of something better." I couldn't but suggested we might regret it in 18 years time when Kiki (our eldest daughter) and Trixie were hitting the town together and we ran the risk of them sounding like a pole-dancing outfit! It's a beautiful name for a beautiful girl!

TheWombat Mon 12-Nov-12 14:20:02

Ooh, thank you for the reply! Like many other TBI patients my husband fell through the gap when it came to treatment...so we haven't known about any options other than the pharmaceutical kind! I will get finding out about CBT ASAP. Many many thanks for the suggestion. If it isn't too 'therapy-ish' I may even get DH to agree to try it! smile

BeverleyTurner Mon 12-Nov-12 14:21:19

WorkInProgress

Hi
First of all I would like to say that this is not a criticism but a genuine question as it is clear from above that people find your writing useful and I do admire what you have acheived. I used to really like some of the articles Bev wrote, but now it seems every time something happens an article is written and now you have a book, could you be accused of cashing in and living your lives in public. Don't you crave some privacy ?

Good question. We have considered that but honestly feel that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear about being honest in public. We felt very strongly that it would have been irresponsible NOT to talk about our experiences after the accident as we have a platform to genuinely help other families in this horrible situation. (James had been asked to do autobiog before, but the timing was never right - there would have been no great purpose other than to 'cash in' as you say). We're also lucky - we're not 'celebrities' with paparazzi outside our door we're not that interesting!! x

JamesCracknell Mon 12-Nov-12 14:22:04

Thank you so much for the questions, hopefully you saw I didn't avoid the harder thought provoking ones. So I'm expecting a few 'direct' questions in the car home with Bev! Have a great afternoon, James

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 12-Nov-12 14:22:08

Thanks so much to James and Bev for a great webchat and to everyone who joined in the discussion. We'll be announcing the four winners of the signed books shortly.

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